Moving to New York City is no joke. If you are considering making the move, here are six lessons I learned through my moving experience.
A Ukrainian flag waves outside Carrie Bradshaw's apartment from Sex and the City.
Ever since I was in middle school, I dreamed of living in New York City. Since I grew up in the suburbs of Washington D.C., I’d often take the train with my mom up to New York for a long weekend or during the holidays. I always thought it was such a magical place, but I always doubted whether or not I’d be able to realistically move there some day. At the time, it seemed like an out-of-reach goal.
Fast forward to 2022, when I was offered an audience engagement job in New York City. I was over the moon, and couldn’t believe I’d finally get the opportunity to move to one of my favorite cities with my boyfriend. But with the excitement, also came anxiety, since not only are all moves stressful, but a NYC move requires a whole other level of logistics.
In case you are considering making the move to New York yourself, here are six lessons I learned during my moving experience; hopefully by reading this, you won’t make some of the same mistakes I did!
1. You must be painstakingly vigilant during your apartment search
I could probably write five different articles on apartment hunting in New York City. Let me tell you, it is not for the faint of heart, particularly if you are moving to the city during the summer, when most people move in the city. Since we were making our move from South Carolina, we took a flight up to New York a month before our move to secure an apartment.
Unfortunately, if you are a Type A planner like me, you too might also be stressed by the timeline of looking for an apartment in New York City. The timeline is fast, and you really can’t start looking until about a month before you plan to leave. Apartments tend to get snatched up within a couple of days.
We started our search using the Street Easy app, which was something that was recommended to us by several friends. Street Easy is helpful because you can narrow your search by neighborhood, price, number of bedrooms and also other filters, in case having a doorman, for example, is make-or-break for you.
What I will say about the app, however, is that it isn’t always the most accurate. Some users will edit the pictures they upload for listings, and others will exaggerate how many bedrooms the apartment actually has. Be vigilant and try to be skeptical of every listing you see online.
We also eventually ended up working with a real estate agent, who helped us immensely. Although it is a more expensive route, we were looking during a crazy competitive time, and it helped us to have someone who could look on the ground for us when we were still in South Carolina. Our agent was also able to help us get tours in apartments that were impossible for us to secure via Street Easy.
2. Location is everything
My biggest piece of advice when it comes to finding a place in New York City: location is everything. It seems like an obvious tip, but location is truly king in New York; you want to make sure you have a good commute to work (i.e. finding a commute that doesn’t have too many transfers on the subway) and find a place in an area that you will enjoy spending most of your time in.
Since walking will become your new favorite mode of transportation, you also want to take into account what your neighborhood is like at night, and how safe it is overall.
Also, consider the following questions:
Where is the closest grocery store?
Is there any construction happening near your apartment?
How many restaurant/bar options are nearby?
Where are the closest subway and bus stops?
How busy is the street you are on?
We also knew we ideally wanted to be in Manhattan, since that is where my office was based. However, at the time, we almost ended up in an apartment in Astoria, Queens, since it was such a competitive time to rent. Luckily, fate saved us in the end, and we were able to find an apartment in Midtown that is walking distance to my office — a luxury I truly was not anticipating to have.
But truly, the location of our apartment has made such a difference; it is an easy walk to many New York City landmarks, which is great for starting out here in the city and fun for when friends and family come into town. We are also not far from some of our favorite areas, like the East Village and SoHo.
Although we would have ended up with a TON more space in Astoria, it would be more challenging to access many of our favorite spots in Manhattan, which would have been a huge bummer.
3. Pack light
This is one of the hardest lessons I learned during the moving process. I have mad respect for those who can fully live out a minimalist lifestyle, but I have decided I am just not one of those people! I like to be surrounded by things that make me happy, and I love decorating my space with art and knick knacks from my travels. If we were to have done the move again, I probably would have brought half as many items with us to the city, though. Apartments here are drastically smaller, and storage is extremely minimal. There are also so many logistics involved once you start moving your furniture and other belongings into an apartment downtown; we unfortunately had to park a ways from our apartment once we got into the city, which involved us lugging heavy loads long distances in the peak heat of the summer. Do not recommend.
4. Choose your moving company carefully
Luckily for us, moving out of our apartment in South Carolina was relatively a breeze. We hired local movers who were able to move everything out of our apartment in about two hours. One had a broken toe and they were both wearing Crocs, I might add!
Moving into our apartment in NYC, however, was a completely different story. I had originally booked all of our movers through U-Haul, since there were some significant discounts. We had everything ready and lined up to go in New York, until I realized that the movers had to have insurance to move everything into our apartment. Of course the ones I chose through U-Haul did not.
As a result, I had to cancel our NYC movers last minute, and it was too late to find someone else. Big mistake. Make sure your NYC movers have insurance during your move, since most NYC apartments will require it. We truly could not have done our move without the help of my mom and cousin Michael, who selflessly met us in New York City that day to help us move everything in. We are forever grateful!
5. Try to nail out other logistics before moving day. You will thank yourself later.
Remember what I said earlier about NYC moves involving MANY logistics? This was another huge lesson I learned early on. The apartment we ended up getting did not have an AC unit, and we also of course had to make sure our electricity and WiFi was set up before we got to the city. This is where my mom was also able to come in and help us out immensely; she was able to take the train up to NYC and help us get some of these logistics sorted before we moved. I seriously cannot imagine moving into our apartment without AC, which is what we would have ended up doing without her help. Phew.
Plus, you will need many different documents to apply for apartments in New York City. In fact, way more documents than your average move. Do your research online to make sure you have every potential document you could possibly need ready to go before you start touring apartments. The sooner you can get in your application, the greater chance you will be able to beat out some of the competition.
If you’re able to take a trip up to NYC to set some of these things up before you get there, or have someone who would be able to assist you, I’d highly recommend. Your future self will thank you.
6. Assume things will go wrong along the way
This may sound pessimistic, but my final piece of advice would be to assume that there will be hiccups throughout your moving process. When making big moves like this, especially to a city like NYC, it helps to have the mindset that it will probably not be the smoothest move that you will ever make. Preparing yourself to make last-minute-decisions and having the energy to troubleshoot will save you in the long run. In addition to having a realistic outlook on your moving process, also make sure that you are eating well and sleeping as much as you can. Moving is strenuous and exhausting, and squeezing in self-care leading up to the big day can help make all of the difference.
I hope these tips help you if you are planning a move to New York City. After knowing these tips, I am hoping our next move within the city will be a little bit easier. That being said, I think we will stay where we are at for a little while!